Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Back Pain Health Center

Font Size

Mild Back Pain: Advice as Good as Therapy

Do-It-Yourself Treatment Provides Same Results as Physical Therapy in Minor Cases
WebMD Health News

Sept. 23, 2004 -- Routine physical therapy is no better at relieving mild to moderate back pain than good advice from a therapist on how to remain active, a new study shows.

"Remain as active as possible and take up some form of regular exercise, such as walking or swimming," says study researcher and physiotherapist Helen Frost, MSCP, MSc, of the University of Warwick in the U.K.

Her study showed that people with mild to moderate back pain fared no better after getting up to six professional physical therapy sessions than those who met only once with a therapist and were told what to do. Low back pain is one of the most frequent problems seen by health care providers, an estimated four in five Americans will be affected will lower back pain at some point in their lives.

Each of the 286 patients she tracked -- all with back pain for at least six weeks and most with a history of problems -- had an initial counseling session and were given an instruction book written by physical therapists on how to cope with their pain.

After that, half continued to get personalized and supervised exercise and manual manipulation by a trained physiotherapist, the term for physical therapists in the U.K., and elsewhere. The others got no additional treatment from the therapists.

Everyday Exercise Best

A disability score and ease of movement was assessed every few months for one year; the participants were also asked about their perceived benefit from the treatment. Throughout the year, both groups had similar levels of relief.

Does this surprise Frost, a physical therapist herself?

"Not entirely," she tells WebMD. "The back book that all the patients were given has previously been shown to be effective. It encourages patients to remain as active as possible. They were not taught any specific exercises, only advised to remain active and get regular exercise."

A likely explanation: The type of mild to moderate back pain in Frost's patients, which affects most Americans, usually resolves itself on its own -- no matter what you do, says James Weinstein, DO, chairman of orthopaedics at Dartmouth Medical School and spokesman for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. However, it recurs in about 70% of people.

Today on WebMD

Woman holding lower back
Or is it another form of back pain?
Hand on back
See the myths vs. the facts.
Woman doing pilates
Good and bad exercises.
acupuncture needles in woman's back
Use it to manage your pain.
Man with enhanced spinal column, rear view
pain in brain and nerves
Chronic Pain Healtcheck
Health Check
break at desk
Woman holding lower back
Weight Loss Surgery
lumbar spine
back pain